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Nota Bene Cellars

Nota Bene Cellars

Nota Bene Cellars

by Christina Kelly

Lots of new winemakers want public attention, but one of the newest Washington winemakers actually demands it in his label, “Nota Bene.”

Nota Bene Cellars takes its name from the Latin phrase “Nota Bene,” which is used to direct the attention of the reader to something particularly important. It also happens to be the first letter of the last name of the winemaker, Tim Narby (the “N”) and his wife Carol Bryant (the “B”).

“We wanted our wines to catch the attention of the consumer,” said Narby, a Boeing programmer/analyst for the past 26 years. “Carol was a Latin student for many years and used the letters ‘NB’ when she wanted to ‘note well’ a passage to emphasize. It just fit when we started making our wine.”

 

Narby joins a number of graduates from the Boeing Wine Club, including Cadence, Austin Robaire, Soos Creek and a half-dozen others who have taken their amateur status commercial with positive results.

“These are smart people who meet on a regular basis, ask questions, talk about winemaking and know where to go for answers,” said Al Cutshall, Boeing Wine Club member. “We have great resources. We have great contracts with grape growers and we share whatever information we have.

Those resources include some of the best vineyards in the state of Washington. Nota Bene Cellars procures grapes from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Alder Creek, Conner Lee, Kestrel View, Artz Vineyard, Klipsun, Champoux Vineyards, Portteus Vineyards, Chandler Reach Vineyards and more. The vineyard pedigrees read like the Westminster Dog Show—the best of the best.

Narby is a soft-spoken, bespectacled man who looks more like a computer programmer than a winemaker. However, when he talks about wine and his desire to retire from Boeing in five years, his face shines with the exuberance of a kid on Christmas Day.

The couple recently released their 2001 vintage—three Bordeaux blends that are already scoring high with national wine critics, magazines and consumers. But with only 500 cases produced, the wines are extremely limited, and demand is already high.

The Wines

Nota Bene Cellars’ 2001 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain blend, has a splash of Klipsun Cabernet Sauvignon. It consists of 58 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 27 percent of Merlot. And, Good Golly Miss Molly is it exceptional! There is something special about Red Mountain grapes that make the wine shimmer in the glass.

Ripe tannins are balanced with black currant and cassis—served this with pan-seared lamb chops. Better yet, cellar it for at least a year or longer and drink it however you please.

The 2001 Miscela (Italian for blend) consists of 49 percent Merlot, 34 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 percent of Cabernet Franc and 1 percent of Petit Verdot. “This is my favorite of the trio,” Narby said. “It is the favorite of many of the Boeing wine club members.”

Miscela has big berry, plum and toasted spice in the flavors with a long finish. Any braised beef dish will work with this opulent and rich wine.

The 2001 Kestrel View Estates showcases grapes from the Yakima Valley, and consists of 67 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 percent Merlot, 16 percent Cabernet Franc and 1 percent of Petit Verdot. This is a softer, more supple wine with raspberries and vanilla in the mouth—feminine but not wimpy. A bit like women’s Olympic beach volleyball—power behind the bikini!

The Beginning

Tim and Carol have been making wines for years in their garage, and winning competitions as members of the renowned Boeing Wine Club since the 1990s. But the seed to make wine germinated with a wedding present in 1985 when they received a winemaking kit.

“It started with a can of blackberry syrup,” Narby recalled. “What we produced was drinkable, but the desire to make something better was on our minds. Boeing had a wine club and we thought that was the way to go—we joined in 1987.”

From the early years of home Zinfandel production (because the grapes were available) to a decade of amateur winemaking in the Boeing Wine Club, Tim Narby and Carol Bryant were increasingly lured into the idea of commercial winemaking. People loved their wines.

Carol Bryant has worked for more than two decades as a state prosecuting attorney. She told her husband she could do all the paperwork involved in establishing a commercial winery. It can take eight to 10 months or more to comply with the paperwork for most new wineries—Carol Bryant had the work done in about three months.

“It helps being an attorney used to dealing with forms,” she said. “This was a product of long work and love.”

Nota Bene Cellars also benefited from the working relationships established through the Boeing Wine Club for vineyards crops. And, with Cowboy, the corporate dog, and Angel, the corporate cat, and Samantha, the corporate leopard gecko—all owned by Kimberly (13), and Ryan (8)—the prospects look good for future Boeing Wine Club members and the continuation of “Nota Bene”—calling attention to something well worth noticing.


Nota Bene Release Party 2004

“Tim’s wine is like watching the cream rise to the top,” said a fellow Boeing Wine Club member. “What appears to be a simple move to produce commercial wines is not so simple. Two, three years go by without selling one bottle of wine, as it sits in the barrel. It is faith and passion that gets you through, and in Tim’s case, the end product is worth the wait.”

 

Author Christina Kelly worked as a newspaper reporter on the West Coast for more than 20 years covering education, public safety, government, business, environmental issues, entertainment and minority affairs. During the same time, the Washington native began her lifelong interest in wine. After two decades in the news reporting business, Christina decided it was time to concentrate on her passion – the wine industry. She is our indispensable staff writer and columnist.

 

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The Vineyards

Ciel du Cheval Vineyard

Grapes sourced in 2001, 2002, 2003
This place is just plain blessed…year after year owner Jim Holmes grows some of the best grapes in the state on Red Mountain near Benton City. His vineyard manager, Ryan Johnson is also an integral part of the success equation at this site. Many of our grapes come from the ’92 planting, but we combined some ’94 and ’98 Cab for 2003 and are very pleased with the results.

Conner Lee Vineyard

Grapes sourced in 2001, 2002, 2003
All roads lead to fine grapes if you are traveling down Rt 24 on the way to Othello. Conner Lee has been around a long time, but has shunned the limelight. We hope more people will learn of the wonderful grapes being grown by the dynamic team of Tom Thorsen and Jerry Bookwalter. Majority owner, Bill Conner, gives them free reign in cultivating grapes to the specifications of each customer. You ask them to crop to a certain level and they do it. Not only is service at the forefront, but quality is as well. Tom and Jerry know the terroir of this vineyard and try their best express it with every vintage.

Kestrel View Estates Vineyard

Grapes sourced in 2001
Kestrel Vintners winery has proved that many fine wines can be made from their vineyard just north of Prosser. That’s why we were very pleased to have access to their Cab, Merlot, and Cab Franc for our 1st release. Expect more elegance than intensity from this source though. We have found that Kestrel wines mellow with age to show delicate cherry profiles.

Klipsun Vineyard

Grapes sourced in 2001
We managed to sneak 1500 lbs. out of this Red Mountain vineyard in 2001 without Tricia Gelles knowing about it…lucky for us because it was our best wine on the year. We were able to sprinkle the results among our 3 blends…and they are all certainly better off for it. Klipsun has been labeled one of the top 25 vineyards in the world by Wine & Spirits magazine. We are not sure of this designation considering the accompanying vineyards on this page, because Washington State is just a darn fine place to grow grapes. Ok…we paid for these grapes, but they were destined for the Boeing Wine Club. We hope we’re on the list to get more some day. We need to mention the lofty contribution of Fred Artz, see Artz Vineyard above, because Fred has managed Klipsun Vineyard for many years and is certainly one of the best growers in the state.

Portteus Vineyard

Grapes sourced in 2002, 2003
Paul Portteus has been a fixture on the Eastern Washington landscape for many years as he was one of the first to pioneer viticulture in Zillah. His vineyard is located on one of the most beautiful hills in the state with mountain views of Mt. Rainier and Mt Adams peaking above the vines. Tim and his son Ryan enjoy playing baseball on Paul’s spacious lawn…Ryan says it the best place he’s ever played baseball…Did we mention the fine wines coming from this vineyard year after year…Syrah, Cabernet, and Cabernet Franc.

Stillwater Creek Vineyard

Grapes Sourced in 2003
We were very lucky to answer the gracious letter we received from owner Mike Alberg in early 2003. This new vineyard located near Royal City in the Frenchmen Hills is producing some very good fruit under the direction of winemaker, Mike Januik. The Phelps clone Syrah we fermented in the fall of 2003 was extremely good, ripe and dark as can be. Tim feels a great need to vinify many more varietals from this vineyard in the future…starting in 2004. Part II of the magic being made at Stillwater is due to the well-educated viticultural team of Tom Thorsen and Jerry Bookwalter, of Bookwalter Winery (see Conner Lee above).

Stone Tree Vineyard

Grapes sourced in 2003
We picked some terrific Syrah, the Espeguette clone, from this vineyard in 2003. The vines were planted in 2001 and Tim was very nervous about getting well-balanced grapes from such young vines even though Tedd Wildman assured him he would be sensitive to all the right variables…with water being the most important. Well, it appears Tedd knows how to grow grapes and pick a vineyard site. He has also planted some new and interesting clones that Tim hopes to explore in the future.


Tim and Carol at Taste Washington

The People: Tim and Carol

It all began with a bottle of Chateaux Margaux 1982.
Tim Narby (the “N” in Nota Bene Cellars) and his new wife Carol Bryant (the “B” in Nota Bene Cellars) decided to celebrate an evening at Ashland’s Shakespeare Festival with a gourmet meal. They had discovered good wine a few years before, about the time they discovered a shared interest in fine dining and in each other. Tonight, to celebrate a marvelous performance of The Comedy of Errors, they decided to order something even better – possibly even great – to match the quality of the play.

Tim took one swallow and gazed into the eyes of his bride and said, “This is what I want to make.” Carol gazed right back at her new husband and said, “Sounds like a plan. I’ll help.”

Carol was the child of missionaries serving in Chiengmai, Thailand. Her previous acquaintance with wine was as Christ’s first miracle at the marriage feast in Cana. Tim knew a little more, growing up among Italian steelmakers 40 miles north of Pittsburgh. He and his friends secretly sampled Guff Geneviva’s wine he made in his cellar from a mix of Zinfandel and Muscat grapes.

They went home and broke out a home winemaking kit they received for their wedding. It featured a can of blackberry syrup but the end product was drinkable. They were elated.

In the fall of 1986, they bought fresh Zinfandel grapes out of the back of Tony Picardo’s 18-wheeler he used to park on a street end near the King County Airport. They enlisted some friends and neighbors to help and had their first pressing. It wasn’t Chateaux Margaux, but ever since they’ve done 10+ fermentations a year in their basement and every one has improved on its predecessor.

Tim, a Boeing systems analyst, joined the Boeing Employee’s Wine and Beermaking Club. For more than 30 years, this coterie of gifted amateurs explored Washington grapes before they were a glimmer in the national oenological eye. As Tim and Carol’s wines won many firsts in the club’s annual Winefest, Tim became Grape Procurement Officer and eventually Vice President of Wine.

The youngsters were incorporated into the burgeoning hobby. Kimberly developed a good eye for the best bunches of grapes in the field and Ryan became Tim’s trusted co-pilot on his excursions to the vineyards of Eastern Washington.
In 2001, Carol said, “Ryan’s out of pre-school. We can start the winery now.” For years the wine had carried the name NB, for the footnote of the Latin phrase “nota bene,” as well as being a nice combination of Tim’s and Carol’s surnames. As the commercial enterprise was contemplated their designer friend suggested moving from the footnote to the full Latin phrase and a Grey Poupon moment was experienced: “But, of course.”

They leased a warehouse, bought racks and racks of French Oak barrels, cases of bottles, and an industrial-strength wine press. It was then that Carol, a state prosecuting attorney for 23 years, made her unique contribution. The stacks and stacks of forms necessary to open a commercial winery in Washington have stopped many an aspiring winemaker cold. But Carol knew how the bureaucratic mind worked and regarded the four-inch stack of paperwork as a challenge.

“What do you suppose they want here?” she would say cheerfully as she worked her way through entry after entry. It takes most wineries from 8 months to a year to never to get these all filled out and processed. Carol got Nota Bene Cellars through the whole process in 3 months. It may be a record.

And this year came the results: three beautiful Washington reds, each with their distinct virtues, pressed from the 2001 vintage, the best grapes in years. Eighteen years of effort in every sip.

“The Latin root for amateur is amo: to love,” says Carol, the company Latinist . “Wine is alive. It must be the product of love.”

Tim just says, “Isn’t it delicious?”

Nota Bene Cellars Staff
Tim Narby, CEO, COO, master winemaker, and name partner
Carol Bryant, CFO, corporate counsel, and name partner
Kimberly Narby, apprentice counsel and junior partner
Ryan Narby, apprentice winemaker and junior partner
Cowboy, corporate dog
Angel, corporate cat
Samantha, corporate leopard gecko

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